Sunday, January 5, 2014

Pancakes and Computer Games

Today is a sad day in Elizabeth's baking world because I had my first failed baking attempt. Well, not first ever in my life, but first in my recent baking endeavors. I've been meaning to make sour cream cinnamon roll pancakes since Christmas, and I finally made myself do it today because I bought the sour cream and didn't want it to go bad. I dunno if it was because I had a little too little sour cream---I had to eyeball half a container and wanted to err on the side of less---but the batter was way too thick. I found myself glopping blobs on the griddle, and there was no way I could swirl cinnamon in it. I was going to just throw the glop away, but then it seemed to be baking, so I thought I would grill it and see what happened. The result didn't taste too bad, but it definitely was not the cinnamon swirly goodness in the pictures.

I also made some red velvet oreo brownies, and while they look pretty, they taste kind of soggy. I think I put too much cream in the ganache, but that doesn't explain the brownies. 

But that's not what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about... Well, ordinarily I'd give you a book review, but I don't have a new book, for a couple of reasons. For one, I've mostly been reading my friend Stephen Kozeniewski's hardcore horror novel The Ghoul Archipelago, and I'm not reviewing friends' books on the blog, and for another, I've been making an attempt to read more adult urban fantasy. "I'm an urban fantasy author," I tell myself. "I should read more urban fantasy." Unfortunately, as I read them, at this point in my life, I really want them to be young adult paranormal romances. So the result is that I am uninspired by anything I am reading. So I might just go back to reading YA PNR, with some near future sci-fi mixed in, authorial expectations be damned.

Meanwhile, my writing schedule is in limbo. I really want to get the first book in my new fantasy series ready to query before I buckle down on Earthbound Angels book 3---yes, some of this is just me avoiding EA3---but it's with gamma readers (what I call my third-stage betas). I thought about starting another series that I've been thinking about---a fabulous New Adult Fantasy---but that's taken a left turn in plotting that's made me a little less excited about it. Plus, the actual writing part has always been something of a chore for me.

And then on New Year's Eve, I thought to myself, "Do you know what I want to do? I want to play computer games!" Now, see, I suffer from pretty bad depression, so I often go through phases where I don't want to do anything at all. So when I actively want to do something, I go with it. So I went onto Game Stop and hoped to find something new to appeal to me, which I knew would be a challenge. I basically want all games to be Neverwinter Nights 2, and Dragon Age is just a sorry imitation. But I found Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, and from the reviews, it seemed to be a pretty good game, so I thought I'd give it a go. After the 2.5 hours it took to download.

As the game starts, you are dead. Gnomes drop your body onto a pile of rotting corpses, and you wake up and are basically like, "Wtf??" Which is definitely an interesting start for a game. From there it goes on into an epic adventure where you have to find out about your past and future, aid various factions with their internal struggles, and save the world from rampaging evil fae, all while finding the time to kill all the giant rats in the land.

 A couple of reviews described Reckoning as a single-player WoW, and I would say that's a good description. And since the biggest problem I have with WoW is other people, overall, I enjoy playing it. I've spent countless hours since Tuesday doing so. (Well, not countless. The computer actually keeps track, but I haven't checked in awhile. Probably around 40 at this point? God, if only that were my work week.) I just finished what amounts to Act II at this point---not that it has acts, per se. If I were a technical game reviewer, I would say one of the problems of the game is that it can't decide if it wants to be linear or a sandbox. Which, you know, is fine, because I like a combination of the two, but sometimes I end up doing quests in what seems like the logical order, and I'm fighting low-level monsters and doing a lot of backtracking.

You don't pick a class or anything, just assign ability points to warrior, sorcerer, and/or rogue. Interestingly enough, this is entirely separate from your ability to stealth, and if you decide you want to craft armor, you can make things for all hero types. Which reminds me of a little rant I have. Games know I am a rogue. They can tell because I have put all my points in finesse. And I am the only one playing. So why at the end of quests do they sometimes give me warrior or sorc armor? I want leather! I want daggers (or, in this case, faeblades)! And they know this. So stop giving me the stuff I don't want and can't use!

Some people like to talk about the graphics of a game or the challenge of the combat. Me, I say put it on easy mode and let me plow through the enemies. (And Reckoning gets lots of points for calling their lowest level mode "Casual." So much less judgmental!) What I care about is the story. I want an interactive story experience. I would definitely like to see more main story from Reckoning. I want to know why I am special and important and how I can save the world, and instead I spend a lot of time doing side quests that often don't go anywhere. The story that's there is good, and there are lower tier faction quests that are interesting, but I want MOAR. And I would definitely like it to have more twists. 

I would also like to have funny companions following me around, I may choose to fit the situation. Reckoning does not have this feature, which is disappointing. On the bright side, on the occasions when you do have (not at all funny) NPCs accompanying you on your quest, they have next to no impact on the battle. They neither take nor do much damage, so you don't have to worry about equipping or healing them, and they don't pull enemies or steal kills. So I can live with them. Though I suspect I'm not going to get a romance at all.

I'm trying to decide how much replayability I think Reckoning has. On the one hand, after seeing some of the stuff enemy spellcasters can do, I'd like to give being a sorc a shot. But I don't think I have any impact on the story, so I suspect playing it again would be doing the exact same thing with a different set of skills. So I think it's something I might pick up a year from now and try again. Of course, I'm not sure how much replayability is something I value. Mostly I want to be a neutral good aligned rogue type who talks people out of things as much as possible. So even when I re-play replayable games, I end up doing the same things over and over.

All in all, I'm having lots of fun with Reckoning. And I've found another game called Darksiders, where you get to be the four horsemen of the apocalypse, that looks interesting. So it's possible I have re-opened an age of gaming for myself. Maybe I'll even go back to WoW! Let's hope not, though, because if that happens, I may never write again.


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    1. Thanks for reading my blog posts! :-)

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